Group Title: United States Virgin Islands animal fact sheets
Title: Backgrounds & regulations
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 Material Information
Title: Backgrounds & regulations
Series Title: United States Virgin Islands animal fact sheets
Physical Description: Book
Language: English
Creator: Division of Fish and Wildlife, Department of Planning and Natural Resources, United States Virgin Islands
Publisher: Division of Fish and Wildlife, Department of Planning and Natural Resources, United States Virgin Islands
Place of Publication: St. Thomas, VI
 Record Information
Bibliographic ID: UF00093446
Volume ID: VID00026
Source Institution: University of Florida
Holding Location: University of Florida
Rights Management: All rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.


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U.S.V.I. Animal Fact Sheet #26

Background & Regulations

* '3

Sea turtles spend almost their entire lives
swimming in the ocean and have developed
adaptations to allow them to remain at sea. These
adaptations make sea turtles extremely graceful and
agile while in the water but ungainly on land. The
only time they are not in the ocean is when females
return to shore to lay eggs and when, as embryos,
they are developing inside the egg in the sand on the
beach (they leave land after hatching).
Sea turtles are very .
susceptible to harassment and .
predation on land. While
nesting, they are not agile
enough to avoid predators and
are unable to pull their heads
and flippers into their shell like
Major threats to sea turtles
include, but are not limited to: 3
destruction and alteration of
nesting and foraging habitats,
incidental capture in
commercial and recreational
fisheries, entanglement in
marine debris, vessel strikes, Sea turtle DO NC
poaching, and predation.
Four of the seven global species of sea turtles live
in the U.S.V.I. They are the hawksbill, green,
loggerhead and leatherback. Information can be
found in Division of Fish and Wildlife factsheets or on
our web site
The quickest way to tell if a turtle is a sea turtle is
to look at its legs. All sea turtles have flippers instead
of feet. If a turtle has feet with claws or nails then it is
not a sea turtle.
Sea turtles are a very important part of our local
marine ecosystem. While it may seem that there are
a lot of turtles in our local waters, the numbers in no
way compare to the original numbers of turtles in the
territory, which may have been 100 to 1,000 times
higher. Locally turtles play a keystone role in the
environment. Key stone species are those that
significantly impact the ecosystem in a way that is
disproportionate to their abundance. The removal of
keystone species initiates changes in the ecosystem


structure, generally with a significant loss of diversity.
To put it another way, a keystone species is one
whose impacts on the ecosystem are large and
greater than would be expected from its relative
Hawksbills are highly selective feeders and feed
on specific and common types of sponges therefore
helping rarer species become established and
compete successfully for space and nutrients on the
.- Green turtles graze on
Sseagrass. Similar to the grazing
by cows on grass, the grazing
S._,. (removal of the tips of the grass)
may help seagrass meadows
ecycle nutrients. Ungrazed
areas tend to have grass blades
that are longer, wider, less
dense and less productive. To
maintain the health of the sea
grass meadows the grasses
need to be grazed.
Leatherbacks feed

make good nets! exclusively on pelagic jellyfish,
which in turn feed on fish larvae
and other plankton. As the numbers of leatherbacks
decline, the numbers of jellyfish appear to have
increased. So the decline in leatherbacks may have
significant effects on the numbers of commercially
and recreationally important fish, because the larvae
are eaten by jellyfish, as well as our own well being
while swimming in the ocean.
All species of sea turtles are protected under
Territorial, Federal and International laws and
treaties. The USVI passed the USVI Indigenous and
Endangered Species Act in 1990 (Title 12, Chapter
2). The Act states:
SNo person may take, catch, or possess, or
attempt to take, catch or possess, any specimen
of an endangered or threatened species unless
such person holds a valid collecting permit from
the Federal Government in the case of Federally
listed species or a Territorial permit in the case of
an exclusively territorially listed species.


* No person may ship, transport, or export any
specimen of an endangered or threatened
species or parts or products thereof, whether for
sale or not, unless such person holds a valid
Federal permit in the case of a Federally listed
species or a valid Territorial permit in the case of
an exclusively territorially listed species.
No person may harass, injure or kill, or attempt to
do the same, or sell or offer for sale any
specimen, or parts or products of such specimen,
of an endangered or threatened species.
No person may disturb, damage or remove the
nest, or contents of any nest of any indigenous, or
endangered species.
The Federal Endangered Species Act of 1973
(Title16 Chapter 35) specifically states that, it is
unlawful for any person subject to the jurisdiction of
the United States to:
(A) import or export any endangered or threatened
species into or from the United States;
(B) take any endangered or threatened species within
the United States or the territorial sea of the
United States;
(C) take any endangered or threatened species upon
the high seas;
(D) possess, sell, deliver, carry, transport, or ship, by
any means whatsoever, any endangered or
threatened species taken in violation of
subparagraphs (B) and (C);
(E) deliver, receive, carry, transport, or ship in
interstate or foreign commerce, by any means
whatsoever and in the course of a commercial
activity, any such (endangered or threatened)
(F) sell or offer for sale in interstate or foreign
commerce any endangered or threatened species
(Note: The term "take" means to harass, harm,
pursue, hunt, shoot, wound, kill, trap, capture, or
collect, or to attempt to engage in any such conduct.)
In 1973 the US signed onto CITES (the
Convention on International Trade in Endangered
Species of Wild Fauna and Flora), which is an
international agreement between Governments. Its
aim is to ensure that international trade in specimens
of wild animals and plants does not threaten their
survival. All marine turtles are listed under Appendix I
Appendix I lists species that are the most
endangered among CITES-listed animals
and plants. These are threatened with extinction and
CITES prohibits international trade in specimens of
these species. However, under exceptional
circumstances trade may be allowed (for example;
scientific research or breeding).

* You may not keep sea turtles as pets under ANY
Releasing any wildlife, held in captivity, may risk
the health of wild animals. Diseases picked up in
captivity may be introduced into the local
populations. These exotic diseases can have
serious effects on the local populations. Each
turtle released by the Division of Fish and Wildlife
undergoes an extensive physical examination and
series of tests before it can be released. Contact
the Division of Fish and Wildlife for more
Turtles are easily disoriented by lights. Do not
take flash pictures or shine lights directly toward
sea turtles, especially at night. Contact Fish and
Wildlife for more information.
If you live on, or near the beach do not allow your
pet dogs or cats outside at night. Dogs and cats
will attack and kill nesting turtles and hatchlings.

What you can do to help
1. If you see a nesting turtle, Do not crowd around
the turtle and do not harass it. Do not touch or
shine lights on the turtle. Do not use flash
photography lights can disorient the turtle and
make it difficult to find the water. You may
observe the nesting from a distance. If you
observe a nesting stay behind the front flippers of
the turtle so you don't disturb the turtle.
2. There are specially trained and permitted people
who may handle sea turtles for the purposes of
research, conservation and education. Training is
offered to interested individuals. Contact the Sea
Turtle Assistance and Rescue hotline (1-888-
1turtle) for more information.
3. If you see someone harassing a sea turtle or
poaching a nest, call the local police (911) or the
local Division of Environmental Enforcement STT
340-774-3320, STX 340-773-5774.
4. For more information on this and other animals in
the Virgin Islands please visit our web site at:

PRODUCED IN 2005 by W. Coles
ST. THOMAS, VI 00802-1118
PHONE 340-775-6762 FAX 340-775-3972
PHONE 340-772-1955 FAX 340-772-3227

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